Virtues: Add an evergreen presence to the shade garden with the award-winning ‘Gulftide’ tea olive (Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Gulftide’). Not only does it tolerate shade, but it’s also no favorite of deer! The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society named this evergreen shrub to its Gold Medal Plants list in 2017.
Common name: ‘Gulftide’ tea olive, holly olive, false holly or osmanthus
Botanical name: Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Gulftide’
Exposure: Full sun to full shade. Where summers are hot, this evergreen shrub requires afternoon shade.
Season: Year-round for foliage; fall for fragrant flowers.
Flowers: Small clusters of white flowers appear along the stems in the fall. They are fragrant.
Foliage: The leaves of this shade-tolerant evergreen shrub are dark green but shiny. Their luster adds light to the shade garden. The shape of the leaf is reminiscent of English holly, and its prickly texture makes it unpalatable to deer.
Habit: Grows 5 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. Several can be planted together to make a hedge or screen, although tea olive also makes a fine standalone shrub or member of a mixed border.
Origins: Osmanthus heterophyllus is an evergreen shrub native to Japan and Taiwan. ‘Gulftide’ is a selection that was introduced by Gulf Stream Nursery in Virginia.
How to grow ‘Gulftide’ tea olive: Site in full sun, part shade or even full shade. It will not tolerate full sun where summers are very hot. Provide any type of soil with good drainage and even moisture, though it will resist periods of drought once it is established. USDA Zones 6–9.
Image courtesy of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society